Today I’m sharing some thoughts and ideas a little bit different than my usual mix of quilting tips and techniques. I’m often asked about my specific Planning Systems and Routines especially as they relate to getting sewing accomplished. Read on for the planning techniques I’ve learned over the years along with the systems I use daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
I need to provide a disclaimer here, though. I’m definitely not anywhere near perfect in this area. I get behind or am found to have too many things on my list more often than I’d like. However, I definitely feel like I’ve improved since becoming really intentional about my time a few years ago.
Planning Systems and Routines
I’ve always been a calendar/planning/productivity nerd. As a child I loved getting a new calendar and setting goals and making plans for the year. I always organized twice a year–at the beginning of the school year and then again with the new year. Today I rely on quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning to stay on top of things.
Quarterly + Monthly Planning
My quarterly planning is super simple. I have a page in my notebook for each quarter, for example, 2020 Quarter 1. On that page I make two columns–one is a list of work projects I know I need to get accomplished over the next couple of months. The other column contains home/personal goals and plans. I will often pencil in the due date or the name of the month I plan to work on each item on these lists. These lists provide a project bank I can refer to throughout the quarter. I check them off when they’re finished and move unfinished tasks to the next quarter or cross them off entirely if I no longer want to work on them.
At the beginning of each month I review the monthly calendar in my planner and on my phone. (When I was traveling a lot it seemed easiest to put everything on my phone, but over the past year I’ve relied on my paper planner). I make sure appointments and tasks appear on the weekly pages of my calendar and not just on the monthly page where they might get missed. And then I schedule items from my quarterly list for that month.
The backbone of my organizing is my weekly review which is a practice I’ve been doing for many years. On Sunday afternoons I sit down with my notebook, planner, and weekly desk pad to go over the following things:
- What I accomplished the prior week (so important!)
- Work Tasks for the Week
- Personal Plans for the Week
- Sewing for the Week
- Home Tasks for the Week
- Menu Plans for the Week
- and Mail/Paperwork
At this time I look at everything that needs to be accomplished during the week. Then I assign a block of time to that task and write it down on my weekly pad. I put a lot of administrative type tasks on Mondays and try to be sure to leave several creative time blocks during the rest of the week. Friday is my “catch up” day which I try to leave open in case other projects need to be moved to the end of the week. Saturdays are left open as much as possible for sewing. And I really try not to have anything on the calendar for Sunday.
Weekly Big Three
At the end of my weekly review I write my Weekly Big Three goals on a whiteboad near my desk. This is a new technique I’ve been using, and it’s so helpful. I’m currently looking for a smaller whiteboard for my sewing room so I can write a separate Weekly Big Three for sewing projects.
A really important first step for organization and productivity, though, is to participate in a period of review to see how your time is generally used. For a good while I participated in time blocking using the Laura Vanderkam method. I literally wrote down everything I did for a couple of weeks with time logs as much as possible. This really helped me to know how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks. For example, I know that if I have all of the blocks to an average sized quilt finished that I need about 2 hours to have it put together with borders if it’s a straight set quilt and about an extra 30 minutes for an on-point quilt. With my knowledge from my time blocking experiences I’m able to pretty accurately schedule things out for the week.
I feel like having a plan or system in place for each of the following really helps me keep our home running smoothly and also helps me keep on track of my personal life:
- Menu Planning ( I do this bi-weekly and have just started keeping a list of our meals to help with planning).
- Grocery Shopping–I’m really blessed here because my husband does all of our local grocery shopping. I make a Costco/Trader Joe’s run about once every 4-6 weeks.
- Cleaning–I do one chore a day and then schedule bigger tasks for Saturdays.
- Bill Payment and Mail–Anything that can be disposed of or handled daily goes to the garbage, shredder, or the bill/to file basket. On Fridays I pay anything that needs to be taken care of that week and then file anything that needs to be filed.
- Personal Goals–I need to do a lot better with this one. We’ve had so many home projects over the past year that I feel like I’m finally catching up a little to do some more personal things.
Just like one needs systems to keep things running smoothly at home, one also needs systems put in place for work whether you work for someone else or for yourself. Here are the things I try to keep up with weekly:
- Design and Pattern Writing
- Blog Post Writing
- Content Planning
- Social Media (the hardest for me to stay on top of)
Being a quilter or creative maker of any kind also involves utilizing systems to keep on track of goals, projects, and supplies. I have systems for the following (many of which are detailed in my Quilting Life Planner which was designed as a personal reference tool for quilters):
- Projects (Long term, short term, bucket list, and current sewing)
- Stash/Fabric Inventory
- Scrap Management
- Notions and Tools Inventory and Management
Just a Few More Thoughts
Thanks so much for reading about my Planning Systems and Routines. (I know this was quite a long post). I’d love to hear any comments about tips and tricks you use to stay organized as well as questions I might be able to answer in a future post.
Happy quilting, and thanks so much for stopping by!
Janet Wells says
Thanks for this article. I love being organized and my biggest challenge is estimating how much time something will take. I’m going to try your system of tracking ( it works for food, why not for time?). It may be the help I need!
Kerie Harris says
Great post this morning, Sherri! I struggle with organization and staying focused. I probably have some undiagnosed ADD going on, but that’s a different subject. ?
Have a great day and happy sewing!
Joanna McMurry says
Hi Sherri, loved this blog post. I really like the pad planner and ordered it. I’m a “list girl” and have several lists on multiple post it notes and small note pads, this pad will cut down on my clutter for sure. I also purchased your planner a while back and love it, the inventory section is my favortie…I had a few duplicate items and this helps me save money by knowing what I have so I don’t buy it again. ?
Love this blog post. Thank for all the great information. I’m going to start tracking a lot of my projects, personal life, and health. Thanks for all your wisdom.
Jane Eilderts says
This was a great blog post as I too love organization (even though I am retired)! I ordered and received the notebook you mentioned in your Saturday post. What do you use that for? And I love your quilting journal! Finally a place dedicated to all things quilting related. I am considering the organization pad but my biggest issue is where to place it. I do the bulk of my planning on my small kitchen table so maybe I could just leave it there. I need to go back to doing one cleaning chore a day rather than clean the entire house in one day. Sunday nights are my weekly planning nights too. A great way to end the weekend and be ready for the new week. Thanks so much for all your great ideas!!
sherri McConnell says
That’s the notebook I use to write my quarterly, monthly, and weekly lists in–
Donna Hall says
I bought your planner it was a good place for me to start , as I’m not good at being organized. So for I’m doing pretty good . I also liked your Saturday list of doing something different each Saturday of the month for a hour , I find once I get going, I may do more than a hour. I also joined a UFO’ group it has helped me to get things done and organized .I have really enjoyed your post, Thank you.
Beverly Bales says
For my pattern organizing I use large 3”notebook. I use sheet protectors to put my patterns in. Then I organize using dividers, holiday patterns , general quilt patterns, ,table runners/ placemats, crafts, etc. When I remove a pattern I copy he front and slip it in so I know I have the pattern . I have project containers I put fabric for a quilt in pattern and a list on top if I’m needing to purchase backing , batting, etc to complete the project . If I have ordered an item to complete the project I list who I have ordered it from and I label the container with the name of the project on the front.
Jennifer Jenson says
Excellent Post!!!! I loved your podcast on this and love the blog to go with it! You have helped me changed my life! Seriously! I have started implementing systems and so far it is working! Not all at once only one at a time and it really does make a difference! Thanks so much for sharing!!!
Love this post. This is challenging for me and I am going to try to incorporate some of your ideas. I currently use the bullet journal tracking which works pretty well. I have your planner which I have yet to use (but am going to), and really love the one you showed here (it’s in my wish list). Thanks for the post!
Mary Bevan says
I laughed when you said “I’ve always been a calendar/planning/productivity nerd”. Me too! Great post. Love your podcast as well.
Margie Dobson says
I am interested in where I can purchase the Weekly planning pad. I love your Quilting calendar. Thank you.
sherri McConnell says
I linked it, so if you click on it, it should take you right to it. Hopefully they still have them available.
Maria Rose says
Sherri thank you for spending time to go through your organisational techniques. I definitely need to spend some time on tidying up my sewing space and organising fabrics and notions better. I will look at reviewing my time to see what fills up my time and put a better system in place. Huge thanks from Maria, UK
Barbara C Hughes says
Great information. Thank you for sharing. Having 3 kids, farm and being a stay at home Mom, there was a lot to keep track of. Always had a spiral for daily notes, lists, groc, phone #’s. Filed that with the tax papers for the year. Had a lot of reference info.
As time went on, I became much more organized. Having a paper fetish, besides fabric, it was necessary!
Have now succumbed to my final move, a with failing health, my note keeping is keeping me more or less on top of things.
Thank you for sharing your talents.?
Angela Dent says
Oh gosh this was so useful. I never know how to start becoming more organised but reading this has given me some ideas. I like the idea of blocking out time for tasks and keeping a log to see where you spend your time. This has been a tremendous help, thank you.
Awesome post Sherri, thank you! I have your Quilting Life Planner and love it. Would you please be able to do a blog post and/or video showing how you are using yours and any further tips to get the most out of it? Many thanks, Kelly
Great ideas. I’m always looking for ways to get more organized. I feel like I am in some areas but not so much in others. Switching to teaching from home this year has thrown a whole new level of organization at me. I would like my quilt projects to get completed (I have MANY at various stages) so your ideas are a start, thanks?.
Kim Martin says
Thank you for being so detailed, seriously! It’s something I want to become and just can’t seem to get there. My sewing room gets messy as fast as I clean it. I start one project and have 3 or 4 others going at the same time. I feel frustrated and overwhelmed because it seems nothing every gets finished and my room stays a mess. I believe I have too much on my mind like quilting ideas and ADD probably too lol! I’ve also started cross stitching and I buy too many patterns then I’m determined to get all the needed floss knowing I can’t do them all at once. Then I try and make project bags for every one of them and I get behind quilting. Its a viscous circle. So thanks again for the ideas. Now let’s pray Kim gets organized!
Great information. Thank you for sharing!